K Street Files: Obama Backlash

Posted May 12, 2009 at 5:41pm

After more than a month of back-and-forth between K Street and the White House over stimulus lobbying restrictions, the Obama administration’s latest move to clean up Washington, D.C., is not earning any plaudits from lobbyists of either political party.

[IMGCAP(1)]In an attempt to increase regular Americans’ access to the government, the White House announced Monday that it was changing the name of the Office of Public Liaison to the Office of Public Engagement.

And while the leadership remains the same — with Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett at the helm — the OPE and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, long the conduit for influence brokers to reach the executive branch, have refocused their mission.

The offices “will serve as the front door to the White House through which ordinary Americans can participate and inform the work of the President,— according to a White House press release.

That is, ordinary Americans who are not registered lobbyists, a segment of the American public who remain persona non grata in the Obama White House. So far, the name change hasn’t impressed many influence brokers, who argue that it’s just another attempt by the White House to fix something that’s not broken.

“This administration is going to have to make a choice one of these days about how they are going to get input,— one Democratic lobbyist said.

“If they are totally going to freeze out all lobbyists, at some point it’s just not going to work,— he added.

Asked about the lobbyists’ critique, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said: “The Office of Public Engagement is just another example of how the president is following through on his promise to change business as usual in Washington to ensure that the policies he puts forth are in the best interests of the American people, not the special interests.—

Rounding Up Clients. Newly retired Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard (R), whose Wayne Allard Associates announced an affiliation with the Livingston Group earlier this year, has signed up his first official lobbying clients, according to filings with the Secretary of the Senate.

Two companies close to Allard’s hometown of Loveland, Colo., have hired the former lawmaker to lobby on their behalf: Westminster-based management company Corporate Allocation Services Inc. and Lafayette-based Boulder Nonlinear Systems Inc.

While Allard is under a strict two-year ban from lobbying Congress, he is free of any restrictions when it comes to influencing executive branch agencies. (But he still has to register his executive branch clients with the Senate.)

Allard said he is helping Boulder Nonlinear Systems secure funding for a project through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. “They need a little extra help,— Allard said.

Corporate Allocation Services is putting in a bid for a NASA contract. Allard said he worked with the company on the cleanup of Rocky Flats, a nuclear weapons site near Boulder, Colo.

“We’re enjoying it,— Allard said of his move into the lobbying business. “We have control of our own schedule. We don’t have to rely on the Majority Leader.—

Congratulations, It’s Self-Regulation. As Congress and the Obama administration work on food safety reforms in the wake of high-profile salmonella outbreaks, the grocery industry this week unveiled its own initiatives that it says will keep the food supply safer. The Grocery Manufacturers Association is spearheading an effort that will include high-tech product recalls and other measures to help reduce food-borne illnesses.

“We are pleased by the commitment of Congress and the Obama Administration to enact food safety reforms and strengthen [Food and Drug Administration’s] food safety capabilities,— GMA President and CEO Pamela Bailey said in a press statement.

“The food industry is ultimately responsible for the safety of its products. We take that responsibility very seriously and want our consumers and policymakers to know that we are vigilant when it comes to product safety and consumer protection.—

The GMA, along with the Food Marketing Institute, is launching a Web-based recall system to get food off grocery store shelves as quickly as possible. And the groups are turning to third parties, such as American National Standards Institute, to conduct audits and issue safety certifications.

Business Development. Lobby shop Madison Group has signed on a trio of new clients, bringing aboard global firm ICF International, Dallas-based Energy Future Holdings Corp. and Spectrum Bridge, a spectrum auction firm.

Madison will focus on a transportation reauthorization bill for ICF and energy and climate control matters for the Energy Future Holdings Corp. For Spectrum, the firm is following technology matters related to spectrum auctions, according to a recent lobbying disclosure filing with the Senate.

Firm founder Robb Watters said his business is growing. “It’s really a testament to the quality of the partners we have like Blair Watters and Marcus Mason,— Robb Watters said.

Blair Watters is married to Robb Watters and is a former aide to the House Democratic Caucus. Mason was senior director of government affairs for Amtrak before joining the firm. “People are finding more value in boutique firms that don’t carry the overhead costs affiliated with larger firms,— Robb Watters said.

K Street Moves. Tom Stautz, a retired U.S. Army colonel, has joined the defense lobbying shop Strategic Marketing Innovations as a senior adviser. He will focus on defense acquisition and business development issues for the firm’s clients.

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